In the summer, Turtle Doves across Europe are preparing themselves for the long and arduous journey back to Africa.
This migration requires a huge amount of energy, so Turtle Doves spend their days eating as much as possible, building up their fat reserves ready for the trip. This preparation can mean the difference between life or death for a Turtle Dove.
The best places to spot Turtle Doves at this time of year are on newly harvested fields, such as wheat or poppyseed, where they feed on fallen seed and grain. Turtle Doves gather here in groups before migrating south. Before the 1990s, these groups could have contained more than 100 Turtle Doves, but nowadays this is maybe 10-20 birds.
Intensive tracking studies, such as our “Turtle Doves in a Changing Landscape” research, can give us an insight into the daily movements of individual birds. In turn, this helps us better understand the importance of certain habitats to an individual, and how this changes each month.
Henk, one of our tagged Turtle Doves in 2019, was a daily visitor to a poppyseed field last summer. We found that he visited the field most frequently after harvest, when the field was still covered by stubble, and he was seen feeding with a number of untagged Turtle Doves. After ploughing however, he visited less often and the group of untagged doves immediately moved on in search of more food. As expected, we are already starting to see similar trends in Bram’s behaviour (tagged in May 2020). It clearly shows the importance of crop stubble as a pre-migration food source for birds.
Turtle Dove Jos, from Walcheren, will be similarly preparing to fly south. He is the first Turtle Dove in the Netherlands to be migrating south with a satellite transmitters, and you’ll be able to follow his progress online using our live map.